I went into tonight’s Sons of Anarchy expecting something. I expected something unexpected. I was prepared. I have been saying all season that Sons of Anarchy was one of the best shows on television, but I have to take this episode to task to a pretty healthy degree. It was an hour and twenty-five minutes of greatness and five minutes of sheer lunacy. I am going to start with the ending (get it out of the way) and then highlight an otherwise phenomenal episode (and season for that matter).
One thing Ethan Zobelle has been this season is cerebral. Nothing shook him. He never wavered in his calculations or scheming. His demeanor never changed and even his speech pattern never faltered. Even tonight, with the Sons facing him down in the street and having to leave his daughter behind, he was cool, calm and collected. But when he has finally been cornered and he learned his daughter has been killed was when Zobelle almost broke. He stood alone in the ice cream shop awaiting his fate. What a scene it should have been. And then Clay and crew took off to save Abel from the crazy Irish guy. I would never claim one scene could ruin a season, but this rang so unbelievably stupid to me, I am having a bit of trouble reconciling it.
The point is the family trumps all. I get it. But making this point by allowing Zobelle to escape in an effort to recover Jax’s son just doesn’t add up. Ignore for a second that it would have taken all of two minutes to go into the shop, lay waste to Zobelle and move on. Or that the phone call came just seconds before his demise. Or that Clay is, in essence, choosing one family member’s imminent doom over his getting revenge for the crimes against Gemma. It’s all too entirely convenient, and dare I say, lame.
This season, Sons of Anarchy built itself on expecting the unexpected. It was brutally violent, disturbing, emotional and beautiful. But this ending appears a byproduct of the writers wanting to twist the viewers into just another, “whhhaaa?” moment. Whether it was Gemma’s rape, Tig confessing to Opie, or even Stahl proving to be the most evil of the bunch, Sons of Anarchy never fell victim to the obvious or cliché. And while the Irish Da’ speeding off in a motorboat with Abel wasn’t necessarily expected, it wasn’t intriguing either. If anything, it felt more like a “cliffhanger, for cliffhanger’s sake.” It wasn’t Sons-like and that is why it bothers me so much.
Don’t get me wrong, this episode was packed full of all the moments we have come to expect from Sons of Anarchy. Gemma facing down Polly, Stahl facing down Gemma, Eddie trying to break free, Eddie’s Da’s torment over his son’s death, Weston facing down Jax with pride, and even Otto getting his revenge. They were all emotionally charged and gut wrenching. It was just the final scene, which tried so hard to be like all the rest, wasn’t.
To place a television season on the true pantheon of greatness (Wire Season 3, Sopranos season 1, etc) it needs to work from the very beginning to the very end. In my estimation, Sons of Anarchy fell five minutes short.
Highlights, thoughts, rants and raves
- Agent Stahl is the only true enemy. I should have realized that last season, but didn’t. I should have picked up on it when Donna died but hey, I thought it was more Clay and Tig’s fault. It should have been apparent when she tried to turn Jax against Clay, but I was too caught up in stepfather-son feud. When Chibb almost got turned a rat it should have been jumping in my face but I was too worried about Jimmy O. Well tonight, she left no doubt. Killing Eddie (by shooting him the back after goading him into violence) and then pinning his death on Gemma should have been the end of the season. Stahl is the real snake in the grass, even playing on Gemma’s rape as means to gaining trust. Despicable.
- Gemma basically throwing her act of revenge out there as a message from God was not what I expected of her apparent conversion to belief in a higher power throughout this season. That she is punished by the devil (Stahl) for this transgression falls into the “lessons learned just a bit too late” category.
- I don’t know what to think about Gemma lamming it with Unser. I will say this though: it’s the only time I can remember Unser or Gemma looking genuinely happy (or relieved) all season.
- Warning, slight HBO’s The Wire spoiler coming up: The scene where Weston is killed was a reminiscent of a scene from the final episode of The Wirewhere Michael kills Snoop. Right before Michael pulls the trigger Snoop looks in the mirror and asks him how she looks. It is the last act of those resigned to the idea they would die before their time, or for their cause. I almost felt bad for Weston in this scene, which is so contradictory to his total evil.
- I guess this settles the Clay verse Jax thing once and for all, although I think it would have added more depth if Clay had chosen Zobelle’s head over the saving the baby’s butt.
- Is Hale the new Unser? It appears so. He ignored his duty to aid SAMCRO (or at least feed his own need for revenge). In terms of moral footing, the two police officers are standing fairly even now.
- Kurt Sutter and company offered yet another title worth Googling. Na Trioboldi refers to “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland which, according to Wikipedia, was a time of “ethno-political unrest...which spilled over into England...” A fitting title considering the Irish influence on the ending and the way the Zobelle/ Mayan and SAMCRO war threatened to play out Old West style in the streets of Charming.
- For as much as Sons is a show about motorcycles, the bikes have rarely been at the center of any action. Until tonight. Fantastic scene with the war over Zobelle coming to a head on the highway outside of Charming.
- I mentioned last week that I thought Halfsack wasn’t going to make it through tonight’s episode. The show is about a violent gang and this means causalities. He died trying to save the son of the SAMCRO’s leader and I am sure in the world of SAMCRO it is noble. Actually, in any world it is noble. But it just seems so worthless.
- Overall, a fantastic season of Sons of Anarchy. Despite my ranting about the last five minutes, it is a show I would recommend as some of the best television out there. Maybe that is why I just expect so much. See you all in Season Three – The Hunt for Baby Abel!